1-15-08 - BURBANK, Calif. — NBC has ordered a pilot for an American version of the U.K. smash sensation Top Gear. Although the show apparently will feature a completely new cast, producers say it will still feature "the irreverent spirit of Top Gear."
With the Writers Guild of America still striking in full force, networks have been scrambling for non-scripted content. In practice, this has led to helpings of The Biggest Loser 5 and Celebrity Apprentice — and to NBC's decision to bring Top Gear to the United States.
The Office is the most recent example of a BBC program that has done well in a U.S. adaptation, and Top Gear is NBC's shot at repeating that success. The British show features the expected test-drives of supercars — but also more lighthearted segments such as a giant game of soccer with a bunch of tiny VWs, or a contest to see which host can build the best amphibious car to drive across a lake.
Ben Silverman, NBC co-chairman, seems to think it's a brilliant move. "Top Gear is a proven international hit which fits perfectly into NBC's lineup of programming with male appeal, including Sunday Night Football and American Gladiators," he said in a statement. "We're always looking for innovative ways to partner with our advertisers, and this show offers a great platform for the latest in car culture."
What this means to you: If NBC is using the show as "an innovative way to partner with their advertisers," will that stop the hosts from trashing vehicles, even if they're made by an NBC sponsor? Let's hope not. --Edmunds.com
American Top Gear To Go "Celebrity Direction"
Date posted: 01-30-2008
SANTA MONICA, Calif. — We've known for quite some time that the hit BBC show Top Gear is coming to America. Producers of the show originally wanted to use the British hosts for the U.S. version, but decided the trans-Atlantic shooting schedule would be too demanding.
In mid-January, NBC announced the U.S. version of Top Gear would air on its network rather than a cable outlet like Speed or ESPN. At the same time, BBC producers were feverishly screening American automotive writers as potential hosts, hoping to give the new show "journalistic credibility."
NBC has since decided to tweak its original plan. Several on-camera automotive journalist candidates received phone calls this week from the BBC stating the network now wanted to take the new Top Gear in more of a "celebrity direction."
An existing NBC relationship with known automotive enthusiast Jay Leno, and the fact that his current Tonight Show contract expires in 2009 could make Leno a front-runner. Actor and Porsche collector Jerry Seinfeld also has a lasting NBC relationship as evidenced by his guest stint on NBC's 30 Rock and heavy rotation of Bee Movie promos that also aired on the network. We wouldn't "bee" surprised to see him in the running as well.
What this means to you: Expect American Top Gear to air without the old-school car magazine editor in a threadbare tweed jacket. — Carol Moody, Correspondent